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New Haven hopes to increase housing stock with more in-law apartments

Jane Merrill works a crossword puzzle in her apartment in the home of her son, William Merrill, in Carmel, Ind. The Merrill family had their two-car garage renovated to create a mother-in-law suite for Jane. Wednesday, July 27, 2011.
Darron Cummings
/
AP
Jane Merrill works a crossword puzzle in her apartment in the home of her son, William Merrill, in Carmel, Ind. The Merrill family had their two-car garage renovated to create a mother-in-law suite for Jane. Wednesday, July 27, 2011.

New Haven city leaders are taking steps to bolster new housing creation through a new law.

Accessory Dwelling Units, known as ADUs, are apartments or small homes located on the same property as a separate stand-alone single family home, duplex or other residential home. They’re often converted basements or detached garages.

New Haven’s existing ADU regulations went into effect in 2021. The rules include various specifications including a minimum lot size. It is also required that the landowner live on the property.

The requirements are too restrictive to make a dent in the city’s housing needs, according to New Haven Housing Authority President Karen DuBois-Walton.

“When we’re thinking about all the different ways we can make housing more affordable, the more that we can streamline and remove barriers to the process, that all contributes to the owner being able to rent that property at a lower rate,” DuBois-Walton said.

(From Left) New Haven Building Official Bob Dillon, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and Laura Brown New Haven City Plan Department Executive Director announcing plans to expand the city's Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance at New Haven city hall. ADUs are essentially in-law apartments that can be added to a property, often as a converted basement or garage. The new ordinance would remove a requirement that the owner live on the property, among other changes January 04, 2024.
Abigail Brone
/
Connecticut Public
(From Left) New Haven Building Official Bob Dillon, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and Laura Brown New Haven City Plan Department Executive Director announcing plans to expand the city's Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance at New Haven city hall. ADUs are essentially in-law apartments that can be added to a property, often as a converted basement or garage. The new ordinance would remove a requirement that the owner live on the property, among other changes January 04, 2024.

The proposed changes are phase two and three of an acclimation process that New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said helps residents understand ADUs.

“By doing the homeownership phase first, I think it showed that this isn't as scary as some folks might think it to be and it also showed that it’s not really moving the dial unless we implement phase two and phase three,” Elicker said.

If adopted, the new ordinance would eliminate the lot size and owner-occupancy requirements. The lot size removal would expand the city’s ability to create an ADU for an additional 4,000 homes.

Under the current ADU ordinance, no new housing units were created, according to City Plan Department Executive Director Laura Brown.

Eleven ADU applications were approved, all requiring extra zoning approval, which runs contrary to the ordinance’s goal of easily increasing housing options.

The new ordinance proposal was submitted to the Board of Alders and requires the board’s approval, which Elicker said may take several months.

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.
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